the Pipe and Tabor compendium

the Pipe and Tabor compendium

essays on the three-hole pipe

England: history of the pipe and tabor

Regency literature


Mentions of the pipe and tabor in Regency times

Sir Walter Scott, who was Scottish and had an interest in old Border tales and ballads, understood the place that the pipe and tabor had in the lives of English people when he wrote in 1816:

"instead of giving way to the terrors of authority; and the youth of both sexes, to whom the pipe and tabor in England, or the bagpipe in Scotland, would have been in themselves an irresistible temptation .. "
Old Mortality (chapter2)


"And let the young lambs bound
As to the tabor's sound !
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Yo that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May."

source Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood William Wordsworth (lines 171-177)

1793 poem entitled ‘The British Mule’1793Hereford Journal - Wednesday 03 July 1793

1801 Haymarket Theatre, play ‘The Corsair’, a duet: 1801 play

18071807 poem
1808 from a play called Harlequin Bonaparte1808 playquoted in the Manchester Mercury - Tuesday 22 November 1808

Figure of Speech: 1808


"Your eyes have ta'en captive my heart

The dance and the tabor I shun,
No rest on my pillow I find ;
Believe me, wherever I run,
Your image still dwells in my mind."

[The word tabor possibly refers to pipe and tabor music in 1800. In
'The Strawberry Tale', published in a collection of songs "which have been sung at Public Places of Amusement", called 'The New Entertaining Frisky Songster' ]

A picnic is described in ' The Vicar of Wakefield' by Oliver Goldsmith, 1812:

"Our music consisted of two fiddles, with a pipe and tabor. ....
The ladies of the town .. swam, sprawled, languished, and frisked. ...
after the dance had continued about an hour, the two ladies, who were apprehensive of catching cold, moved to break up the ball."

1812 from a poem - Kilnsey Crag
1812Leeds Intelligencer - Monday 08 June 1812

'The Garland' is a song written by William Dixon (1760-1825) in the form of a glee. One of "Six lively glees : for three voices NB These glees are within the compass of ladies voices" starts:

"Hark, hark, hark, hark the merry merry pipe and tabor
lead the festive dance along
let us now forgetting labour
Haste to join the jocund throng" etc

1818 'The Adventures of King Arthur'1818 poemNew Times (London) - Wednesday 01 April 1818

1823 from ‘An Ode to the New Year’1823Staffordshire Advertiser - Saturday 11 January 1823


During his 'Travels in France During the Years 1814-1815'  Archibald Alison describes:
"the young dancing to the pipe and tabor, or singing in little groupes"

Sometimes contemporary literature not only describes pipe and tabor players providing the music for village dances but also lists the tunes they played:

"A blind fiddler, a pipe and tabor, struck up Nancy Dawson,
and the vibrating floor soon gave proof that the dancers were strong and active. ...
The pipe and tabor stopped, and the blind man's arm being suddenly seized by his companion, a long drawling squeak usurped the place of the merry notes of "The Black Joke."

('The Village Coquette', a novel in three volumes' by FJ, 1821)

Dancing is often associated historically with certain folk customs such as the Whitson Ale:

"The modern Whitson Ale consists of a lord and lady of the ale, a steward, sword-bearer, purse-bearer, mace-bearer, train-bearer, or page, fool, and pipe and tabor man, with a company of young men and women, who dance in a barn."

('The Every-Day Book' by William Hone, 1825-1826, May 23rd)

A poem fragment by Henry Kirk White describes another Whitson celebraton:

"A day of jubilee, and oft they bear,
Commix'd along the unfrequented shore,
The sound of village dance and tabor loud,
Startling the musing ear of Solitude."

('The Poetical Works of Henry Kirk White', born in Nottingham, died from brain fever when studying at Cambridge.)


British Luminary - 
Sunday 05 January 1823

In 1825 milkmaids' walked in procession on Mayday and danced outside the houses of their customers:

"In London, thirty years ago,
When pretty milkmaids went about,
It was a goodly sight to see
Their May-day Pageant all drawn out:-
Themselves in comely colours drest,
Their shining garland in the middle,
A pipe and tabor on before,
Or else the foot-inspiring fiddle.

They stopt at houses, where it was
Their custom to cry "milk below!"
And, while the music play'd, with smiles
Join'd hands, and pointed toe to toe. ...

(The "Mayer's Song a composition, or rather a medley, of great antiquity" from: May 1, Every-Day Book)

There are many records of dancing after the harvest has been safely gathered in such as:

"Now 'tis eve, and done all labour,
And to merry pipe and tabor,
Or to some cracked viol strummed
With vile skill, or table drummed
To the tune of some brisk measure,
Wont to stir the pulse to pleasure,
Men and maidens timely beat
The ringing ground with frolic feet;
And the laugh and jest go round
Till all mirth in noise is drowned."

('The Harvest Home' by Cornelius Webb in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction,
Vol. 10, Issue 268, August 11, 1827)

"And when that bright day faded,
And the sun was going down,
There was a merry piper
Approached from the town:
He pulled out his pipe and tabor,
So sweetly he did play,
Which made all lay down their rakes,
And leave off making hay.

Then joining in a dance,
They jig it o'er the green;
Though tired with their labour,
No one less was seen."

(the Haymakers Song from Hone, EveryDay Book 1826, Part 4)

In 1824 'Redgauntlet: Letter 12' by Sir Walter Scott (1771 - 1832) Wandering Willie, the blind Borders fiddler, has just arrived at the gig he was to play at with the writer; the company is already dancing; is another fiddler playing his gig?

"my companion was attracted by a regular succession of sounds, like a bouncing on the floor, mixed with a very faint noise of music, which Willie's acute organs at once recognized and accounted for, while to me it was almost inaudible. The old man struck the earth with his staff in a violent passion. 'The whoreson fisher rabble! They have brought another violer upon my walk! They are such smuggling blackguards, that they must run in their very music; but I'll sort them waur than ony gauger in the country.-- Stay--hark--it 's no a fiddle neither--it's the pipe and tabor bastard, Simon of Sowport, frae the Nicol Forest; but I'll pipe and tabor him!--Let me hae ance my left hand on his cravat, and ye shall see what my right will do......
universal shout of welcome with which Wandering Willie was received--the hearty congratulations--the repeated 'Here's t' ye, Willie!'--Where hae ya been, ye blind deevil?' and the call upon him to pledge them--above all, the speed with which the obnoxious pipe and tabor were put to silence, gave the old man such effectual assurance of undiminished popularity and importance"

1827 newspaper report from the Star (London) - Wednesday 03 January of a opera called the 'White Maid' at the Covent Garden Theatre, London 1827 song

1828 book review - An essay on women in a ’ Review of New Books’: 1828 book review


Cheltenham Journal and Gloucestershire Fashionable Weekly Gazette. - Monday 13 July 1829

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